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07/26/2000  5:35 PM ET 
MLB announces Commissioner's initiative on Women and Baseball
Multi-market study finds baseball is women's favorite pro sport

Major League Baseball today released a multi-market study showing that baseball is the favorite professional sport among women, and that a trip to the ballpark provides the quality time and atmosphere they want for their families. The study is part of The Commissioner's Initiative on Women and Baseball, a comprehensive effort to help MLB and the 30 major league clubs build stronger relationships with female audiences.

The Commissioner's Initiative on Women and Baseball was established in 1999 as a pilot program in six major league cities. The pilot clubs were chosen based on market size, ballpark age, and geographic location: Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and New York Mets. Eisner7Sanderson and the polling companyTM, two Washington, D.C.-based firms, coordinated and conducted quantitative and qualitative research for the Initiative among more than 3,000 adult women within the six markets from March through July 1999. The quantitative surveys had a margin of error of +/- 1.8%.

"Baseball has a unique opportunity - unlike any other major professional sport - to build on the inherently positive feelings women have about baseball and to make them - and their families - more active participants in the game," said Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Baseball. "The connection women make between what they want from a family experience and what a baseball game has to offer is not as solid as we'd like, by far, but this Initiative is the first step in a long-term commitment to create stronger relationships with female audiences."

According to the Initiative research, women control the household budget and the family calendar, and also firmly believe in Baseball and say that it surpasses the three other major professional team sports when it comes to being family-friendly, accessible and providing positive role models. Women are the primary decision-makers regarding most household matters: 81% for consumer purchases; 76% for household purchases; and 58% for leisure activities. Women say that among the four major pro team sports, baseball is the most family-friendly (6-to-1); most accessible (5-to-1); and provides the best role models (4-to-1). An overwhelming majority believes baseball games provide a wholesome environment (72%) and give family and friends a positive way to spend time together (90%). By a 2-to-1 margin, women say that baseball is their favorite among all professional sports to watch on television and to attend in person.

"The research gives us a more detailed understanding of how women live their everyday lives. We had to know what they want and need for themselves and their families before developing a comprehensive strategy to communicate all the positive aspects of the game and the ballpark experience to them," said Wendy Selig-Prieb, Milwaukee Brewers president and CEO and a leader of the Initiative Task Force. "From the outset, this Initiative has approached women as intelligent, savvy consumers whose interest is crucial to the long-term success of baseball."

MLB learned that a majority of women were unaware of discount and family ticket packages offered by most major league clubs, and were largely unfamiliar with club charitable activities and the names of current players. The research also determined that the types of media and other sources that women turn to for news and information are rarely the same as those that contain a significant number of baseball stories.

Learning about baseball, the clubs, and the ballpark has a powerful effect on this audience, according to the Initiative research. A majority of participants said they will be more likely to attend a game and buy team merchandise after learning about discount and family packages, and a plurality said that knowing more about the club's personality, its charitable activities, and ballpark amenities will make them more active fans.

"When I first became Commissioner," said Selig, "I said that one of my goals was to put a bat and ball in the hands of every child. It seems that, for many kids, we first must put the right baseball stories in front of their Moms.

"We need to do more to let women know about such MLB programs as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, or RBI, which enables kids in more than 137 cities around the world to play baseball. RBI is one facet of our growing relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, MLB's official charity, through which the league, all 30 clubs, and many players support activities at many of the 2,600 B&GCA centers across the country."

Clubs are working to make the ballpark a destination point for women and families. Many offer special days where Moms and kids can run the bases, batting and pitching cages for fans during games, team-themed birthday parties for kids, and behind-the-scenes tours. Most clubs offer discount packages where a group of four can buy tickets, hot dogs, sodas, and parking for $50 or less. These packages proved very popular in focus groups with working mothers, families on a budget, and women looking for fun double date ideas.

The Initiative report contains a number of recommendations on how MLB and individual clubs can create opportunities to develop better relationships with female audiences. The recommendations address every area of club operations from the front office, marketing and PR departments, and the clubhouse, to ballpark operations, concessionaires, and ticket takers. A collaborative effort between the six pilot clubs, MLB, and the Commissioner generated the final list.

The six pilot clubs incorporated many of the Initiative recommendations into their 2000 season plans. With the report's release, all 30 major league clubs and Major League Baseball are looking at various methods to incorporate the suggested strategies and activities into their plans for the remainder of the year and for future seasons. Several projects already in the planning stages include: a MLB "Father of the Year" Player Award, with club and league-wide winners; an official MLB "Mother's Day Celebration" so players, fans and the entire league can honor Mom; special ballpark nights with discounts, giveaways, and in-park promotions designed to entertain - not patronize - female fans; a "Women's Corner" on the MLB website where visitors can find schedules, ticket packages, driving and parking tips, and fun team facts for all 30 clubs; and a continued pledge to find new and stronger ways to support women and girls in diamond sports.

"We must assume the responsibility of bringing Baseball and the ballpark experience to women," said Drayton McLane, Houston Astros Chairman and CEO, and Chairman of the Major League Baseball Ownership Long Term Planning Committee. "The Initiative will give clubs opportunities to learn from each other and work together to ensure that women and their families feel safe, welcome, and wanted at every major league ballpark."

The Commissioner's Initiative on Women and Baseball is part of an ongoing series of innovations designed to grow and strengthen the game - a goal that Commissioner Selig set for the entire league at the beginning of his tenure. Off the field, other programs have included The Commissioner's Initiative on Ballparks, The Commissioner's Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics, and the Jackie Robinson 50th Anniversary celebration. On the field, innovations have included the introduction of the Wild Card and Interleague play, and the recent decision to return to an unbalanced schedule for the 2001 season.

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